Last week's January 6 hearings were blockbusters. The testimony by the former acting Attorney General, and his associates was eye-popping, and the revelation that five members of Congress sought pardons just showed that everyone involved with the conspiracies around the 2020 election knew they had committed a crime.
However, what happened earlier in the week, stole the show. I was in tears watching Tuesday's January 6 hearings over my computer screen. It was bad enough hearing former President Donald Trump badger the Arizona speaker of the House and the two Georgia election officials, Brad Raffensperger and Gabriel Sterling.
But then the hearings took a massive turn to an even darker side. Georgia elections worker Shaye Moss appeared before the committee with her mother, Ruby Freeman, sitting behind her. They were wrongly — so very wrongly — accused of manipulating ballots last November as poll workers for the Fulton County elections board.
You would have to be an utterly callous, cold-hearted, contemptible human being if you did not shed a tear or feel empathy during Moss’s testimony and the taped testimony of her mother. It was sickening to hear how every aspect of their life was destroyed by the former president of the United States.
"He's supposed to protect us," said Freeman. "Do you know how it feels to have the president of the United States target you?”
Both former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Trump not only not targeted Moss and Freeman, but they also improperly accused them of mischief. They rained down a torrent of tweets about these two remarkable women that led to a trove of racist threats, vitriol, and venom. This hideous intimidation forced Freeman from her home for two months, caused a mob to try to make a citizen’s arrest of Moss’s grandmother as they barged into her home, and prompted Moss to quit a job that she desperately loved.
It was strikingly apparent before she began to testify that Moss was shakingly nervous. Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson assured her there was nothing to be nervous about, which only made Moss perhaps only a bit more nervous. She knew what was about to come, and as her testimony progressed, it became glaringly apparent why she was so nervous.
The wild accusations spewed about these two women by Trump and Giuliani were bad enough, but it’s what they did to them personally that is beyond the pale. Giuliani testified falsely that Moss and her mother were secretly exchanging USB drives as they counted the votes. He said they were passing those drives around like a "crack vial." Can anyone say "racist Rudy?" Moss said they weren’t USB drives they were sharing but rather ginger mints — that’s right, ginger mints, otherwise known as the root of all espionage.
Giuliani’s claim didn’t go away, because Trump took those bizarre accusations and went wild with them on Twitter. He maligned these two gracious public servants, carried on about those USB drives a.k.a. ginger mints, and lied about the two stashing suitcases of votes and rigging up 18,000 illegal votes for President Joe Biden. None of it was true. None of it. Trump didn’t give a shit that he was ripping up these women’s lives. And as a result, Trump’s Twitter trolls went wild too.
They barraged Moss and her mother with horrendous comments maligning their patriotism and their honesty and tried to devour them with threats on their lives. Moss confirmed that most of it was racist. Of course it was, because these deplorables were Trump supporters, and you cannot be a Trump supporter if you are not bigoted.
"Be glad it's 2020 and not 1920," one ominous message said.
It got so bad that Freeman was asked to vacate her home by the FBI the day before the January 6 insurrection. The FBI feared that what would happen on January 6 would have local implications and put Freeman's life at risk. She ended up being out of her home for two months. The proud Freeman said she felt like she was experiencing homelessness.
Moss’s grandmother, who prided herself on tracking her steps while walking around the neighborhood and always opening her door to her neighbors, heard a knock on her door soon after the lies were spread about her daughter and granddaughter. The grandmother, as she always did, opened the door, not to friendly faces from the neighborhood but to terror and terrorists. They pushed their way through, telling her they were making a citizen's arrest. She called Moss screaming for her life.
It didn’t stop there. Trump’s horrid tribe kept ordering expensive pizzas that were sent to the grandmother’s home, and she was expected to pay each time. It’s childish, yes, but sinisterly cruel.
And Moss loved her job because her grandmother reminded her that Black people didn’t always have the right to vote. Moss felt such satisfaction because she was helping people to vote. She explained that she was so eager to help “old people” and “college students” be able to cast their absentee ballots. She knew how important it was to vote. But tragically, she had to leave a job she loved and flourished in because she didn’t feel safe there or anywhere else.
For all of these ordeals, Moss blamed herself. U.S. Rep Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California who was leading the questioning, tried to assure her that it was not her fault. But it was apparent that Moss's guilt had been baked in.
Watching Moss nervously, yet with dignity, testify in front of the committee was breathtaking. She was calm, she was resolute, and she was rightly emotional. You could see her breathing heavily as she had to relive Trump’s vulgar tweets and all their treacherous repercussions. I was breathing heavily too, like probably most everyone else who was watching her. But my intense breaths and most likely everyone else's were of rage at what Trump did to them.
It was haunting, it was frightening, and it was shocking how these women were treated, along with the fact that they lived to speak about the insidiousness of it in front of millions of people. Moss was like a superhero, testifying with her head held high.
When Moss was finished testifying, the entire committee lined up and went over to her and her mother. Each member hugged them and thanked them for their towering bravery.
I don’t think I have ever hated Trump more than I did Tuesday, and I’ve hated him intensely for most everything corrupt he has done. But what he did to these two women was worse than having the mob put you on its whack list. Millions of people still believe that these treasured public servants committed ghastly crimes, and that is probably not going to go away because Trump still peddles these wicked lies, much to the detriment of Moss and Freeman. It's all so tragic.
However, and this is a big one, there will be millions and millions more who will look at these two women as American heroes. Freeman is our next “it” girl, and as for Moss, she was — and probably will remain — by far the committee’s most impactful witness.
How can we, as Americans, ever thank them enough for coming forward and telling the truth, when so many others refused. U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney made sure to point that out, citing Mike Flynn, John Eastman, and Roger Stone, among others, who pleaded the Fifth. Flynn, Eastman, and Stone couldn't hold a candle to Moss and Freeman.
It doesn’t get any worse than what happened to these two women. But it doesn’t get any better than the valor and heroism of Moss and Freeman. They are every bit real patriots. If our democracy is saved and if Trump is convicted, they will live on in history.
John Casey is editor at large for The Advocate.